South Africa clawed their way back in the last two sessions but it is England who have a slight advantage at stumps on Day One of the third Test at 224 for 4. Ben Stokes (38*) and Ollie Pope (39*) are in the middle of an excellent 76-run stand for the fifth wicket and have frustrated the Proteas especially after they picked up two quick wickets.
All of England’s batsmen got off to starts, but failed to make it count. The onus will therefore be on Stokes and Pope to kick on from here and take England to a big score. It will not be easy as Keshav Maharaj is slowly getting into the game and considering the grip he got on the first day, there could be more on offer on Day Two. If he gets good support at the other end from one of the pacers, the Proteas could very well make a short work out of England.
Earlier, England openers Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley got England off to a solid start, negotiating the initial spell from Vernon Philander and Dane Paterson. The introduction of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje too did not make much of a difference as the batsmen played patiently. There was some bounce on the grassy Port Elizabeth track, but very little swing, which is the reason why Philander was not particularly menacing in his first spell.
The pitch too had slowed down within the first hour and the England openers, who were set pounced on anything on the pads or on full length.
The openers brought up their fifty-run stand after the first drinks break of the day, making it only the fifth time since 2019 that the England openers have a half-century opening stand. However, they do not have a single hundred opening partnership since 2017.
England went into lunch at 61 for no loss and would have been fairly satisfied with the start.
However, Faf du Plessis decided to get Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj bowl in tandem after lunch, which paid dividends. Maharaj was getting some purchase off the track, but Rabada managed to get the first breakthrough, dismissing Sibley for 36 four overs into the second session.
Crawley (44) was ticking along well, until he clipped the ball to backward gully, where Rassie Van der Dussen took a brilliant reflex catch. South Africa may have picked up a couple of wickets in the second session, but England would have been the happier team at 117 for 2. It was a slow session as only 56 runs were scored off it, but it further put England in a good position.
England looked more positive in the final session early on, looking to score at a brisk pace. But they had to rethink their strategy after Denly was trapped in front by Maharaj for 25, further adding to England’s frustration. Root too did not last long after that as he was cleaned up by a beautiful delivery from Rabada jagging into the England captain.
Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes put on a much-needed fifty-run stand for the fifth wicket. Pope played some crisp shots of Nortje in the first over of the second new ball to put give England the momentum. They will be key when play resumes on Day Two.
With the series evenly poised at 1-1, it was England who won the toss and elected to bat first. Both teams made one change each: Mark Wood returned to the fold in place of James Anderson, while the Proteas handed a Test debut to Dane Paterson, who replaced Dwaine Pretorius.
England 224 for 4 (Zak Crawley 44, Ollie Pope 39*; Kagiso Rabada 2 for 48, Anrich Nortje 1 for 52) vs South Africa